Pork used to have a reputation as being an unhealthy meat, too rich in fat and too low in other nutritional advantages compared to other alternatives. These days, however, pork is bred to be leaner and of better quality than times past. Pork chops in particular can be quick to prepare and possess great flavor, especially those that are still on the bone. The term "pork chop" actually covers several different cuts from along the flank of the pig, from sirloin chops from near the hips through rib and loin chops to blade chops near the shoulder. Different preparations tend to favor different cuts, so it's wise to know your options.
Grilling pork chops over an open flame is a good way to cook them without adding any oil or other fat. To keep grilled chops extra-juicy, brine them for about four hours first. Sear chops 3/4 inch or thicker on direct heat, then finish on indirect heat. Thinner chops are easy to overcook and benefit from a thick application of sauce or glaze to protect them from the heat.
Braising pork chops, cooking them partially submerged in liquid, assures a moist, juicy result. No need, in this case, to brine it beforehand, as the braising liquid adds extra flavor to the meat. It also minimizes the extra fat needed to cook the chop. You can braise pork chops in chicken stock, white or red wine, beer, cider or even milk. Any pork chop cut can be successfully braised, but the tougher blade chops in particular take well to this method. Braising's sole disadvantage is that it takes a little longer than grilling or sauteing.
You can also roast pork chops in the oven. Choose thicker chops, preferably bone-in, for the best flavor and also to prevent overcooking. A brine beforehand is ideal. Sear the chops on the stovetop first to enhance the flavor. You will need to rub the chops with a small amount of olive or other oil to keep them from sticking to the pan while roasting. At 400 degrees Fahrenheit, a skillet full of pork chops cut 3/4 to 1 inch thick should take only six to 10 minutes to cook through. When the meat reaches 140 to 145 F, it's done.
Sauteing, also known as pan-frying, is quick and, unlike grilling, needs no special set-up. It does, however, require a small amount of oil to keep the meat from sticking to the saute pan. You can brine the chops beforehand and you can also add breading if you like. Brown the pork chop on one side for four to five minutes, then flip. Cover and cook until the center of the chop reaches approximately 140 F. How long this takes will depend on the thickness of your chop; expect between six and 15 minutes more cooking time. The best cuts for this method are 3/4- to 1-inch-thick rib or loin chops; blade chops in particular should be avoided as they are generally too tough for this treatment.
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